Almost two years after medical retirement ended his NRL career, Nathan Ross is about to find out if his 32-year-old body can handle a comeback.
In a real back-to-the-future type scenario, the former Newcastle Knights crowd favourite has returned to the Kurri Bulldogs, the club that helped him springboard into the limelight six years ago.
Close mates with Bulldogs captain coach Mitch Cullen, Ross has agreed to play this season in the local comp alongside other ex-NRL players Tyler Randall and Frank-Paul Nu'uausala, who are also on board at Kurri.
But Ross, whose career at the top level ended due to chronic groin and pelvic issues, says his priorities differ now to when he was at the Knights.
"I haven't played for two years and my life now is family, work and footy in that order," he said. "And there is a huge gap between work and footy."
Ross says he has no real idea at this stage whether his body will hold up.
"After my first training session, I woke up the next morning and I was in all sorts," he said. "I was in a lot of pain - I was pretty cooked to be honest and was thinking it might not happen. But three or four days later, I was back to normal which I thought was a good sign and then the more I trained, the less sore I got.
"The difference now is I'm doing an hour training on the field with the Bulldogs. It's not three hour sessions and then going to wrestling and then doing weights after that, day after day.
"The loads aren't anything like what I was putting myself through at the Knights so the strain on the body is nowhere near as much.
"When I was at the Knights, I was squatting 320kgs. I'm not lifting much more than 100kgs now."
Ross knows the true test will come during the week-to-week grind of playing.
"That's obviously going to be the test to see where my body's at once that all hits as far as the contact and the physicality goes," he said.
"I played in the Nines at Wyong and got through it not too bad and I still miss the contact aspect of not playing so mentally, I know I'll be fine. It's just whether the body will hold up and that is a wait and see thing.
"I can tell you though if footy starts to affect family and work for any reason, I'll pull the pin and cross playing off the list. If that happened, I'd definitely stay on to help the team wherever I could because I've made a commitment.
"I've already been helping with a few technical things that I've learned being in an NRL system that the Kurri boys haven't seen before so it's been good, I'm really enjoying being back actually."
After making his top grade debut in late 2015 against St George Illawarra at the age of 27, Ross went on to play 60 NRL games and scored 23 tries, some of which were the most spectacular the game has ever seen. His one representative appearance was for Brad Fittler's City Origin team in 2017.
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